Dr. Richard Lester, Executive Director
Richard Lester is the executive director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, and a clinical professor in the Department of Management at Mays Business School.
Lester graduated with his BS from Wright State University, earned his Executive MBA from the University of Houston and received his Ph.D. in Strategic Management from Texas A&M University in 2003.
His current research interests focus on corporate governance, upper echelons and entrepreneurship. Prior to his academic career, Lester spent 25 years working primarily at oil and gas-related firms. His last corporate position was vice president and general manager in Houston, Texas.
Blake Petty, Director
Blake Petty is the director of the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Petty received his bachelor’s from Texas A&M in ’98 and his master’s in 2000. After graduating from A&M, he worked in administrative positions at the university and Texas A&M System, including a 10-year stint in the Office of Technology Commercialization.
Most recently, Petty served as assistant vice president of Research and coordinated all Innovation, Industry Relations and Business Development initiatives at Texas A&M. He also facilitated commercialization and entrepreneurship opportunities for the campus and its faculty researchers. In addition, he served as a founding partner in the launch of Startup Aggieland.
Don Lewis, Executive Professor, Director, Blackstone LaunchPad
Don Lewis has been an adjunct faculty member in the Department of Management at Mays Business School since 1999. Lewis is general partner and major shareholder in several real estate businesses. He received his BBA (Management) ’86 and MBA (IT) ’92 from Texas A&M and Texas A&M International University, respectively.
Prior to his academic career, Lewis spent several years in Europe and then in Bryan College Station working as an entrepreneur. He is the recipient of the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence, International Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholarship, Newman 10 award for one of the 10 fastest-growing businesses in Bryan College Station and is involved in a number of service roles in the local community. Lewis is married and has two children, Megan and Kylan. His areas of interest include issues in entrepreneurial and small business education and international business.
Shanna Spencer, Assistant Director
Shanna Spencer is the Assistant Director for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. She joined the center in 2013 as a Program Coordinator and was promoted to Program Manager in 2015. Shanna’s responsibilities include the planning and implementation of many of the Center’s programs and events, as well as developing new programs to meet the needs of our entrepreneurial students. She has also served as a Teaching Assistant with the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps Program.
Shanna graduated with her BS in Kinesiology from Texas A&M in 2004. After graduation, she worked as a marketing coordinator for Conference USA in Irving. She returned to Texas A&M ad earned her MS in Kinesiology in 2007. As a graduate student, Shanna worked for Texas A&M Sports Properties, and continued in a full time role as the promotions coordinator upon graduation.
LauraLee Hughes, Assistant Director, New Ventures
LauraLee Hughes serves as Assistant Director, New Ventures for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. Prior to joining the Center, she served as Executive Director for the Office of Technology Translation at the Texas A&M Division of Research and at the Texas A&M Health Science Center, where she led efforts related to technology commercialization and product development, including management of the university’s IP portfolio for health, life and physical sciences. Previously, LauraLee worked at the Texas A&M University System Office of Strategic Initiatives as a key technical and project manager for multiple research and development initiatives related to biodefense and medical countermeasure development. Representative projects include the National Center for Therapeutics Manufacturing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Blue Angel Program, and the Texas A&M Center for Innovation in Advanced Development and Manufacturing. She has co-authored proposals that have resulted in over $380M in State and federal funding. LauraLee is a graduate of Texas A&M, where she earned her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Biochemistry and Genetics, a Master of Biotechnology, and a Graduate Certificate in Business. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for multiple early-stage TAMHSC startup companies and is a graduate of the Leadership Texas Class of 2014.
Chuck Hinton, Director, NSF I-Corps
Chuck Hinton is responsible for promotion of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-CorpsTM) program. I-Corps prepares scientists and engineers to extend their focus beyond the laboratory, and broaden the impact of select NSF-funded basic research projects.
Hinton leads the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship’s efforts as part of the Southwest I-Corps Node, one of seven national partnerships of universities funded by NSF to support I-Corps expansion. Texas A&M University, along with UT-Austin, Rice University and Texas Tech University, share responsibilities for promotion of this high-impact program and recruitment of I-Corps Team applicants.
Hinton received two degrees from Texas A&M: a bachelor’s degree in business in 1976 and an MBA in 1978. After a successful career in natural gas exploration/drilling/production, Hinton more recently became familiar with the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship as a volunteer mentor working with entrepreneurial students at Startup Aggieland. While leading efforts to recruit and train mentors for their student programs, Hinton developed a deep understanding and appreciation for Startup Aggieland’s Lean Launch Methodology – which shares the same principals applied in I-Corps training.
Stephanie Burns, Communications Coordinator
Stephanie Burns is the Communications Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. In this role, Stephanie is responsible for marketing, social media, web design and other duties related to The McFerrin Center’s communications strategy.
Stephanie has had the pleasure of working at Texas A&M University since graduating from the University in 2014 with a BA in English Literature and a minor in French. She formerly worked as a Program Specialist for the College of Engineering’s Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. She currently serves as the staff advisor for Alpha Zeta Chi, a women’s organization at Texas A&M University. Stephanie is passionate about social media analytics, trends in graphic design and a good cup of tea.
Audrey Fadal, Program Coordinator
Audrey Fadal serves as the Program Coordinator for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship, where she will assist in the planning and preparation for the many programs led by the McFerrin Center. Audrey graduated from Texas A&M University in 2017 with her BA in Communication. After graduation, she worked as Wine Club Coordinator for Messina Hof Winery & Resort in Bryan, TX, and she joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship team in April 2018.
Audrey has experience working with students and planning events after her involvement in campus organizations when in school, as well as in her role at Messina Hof. She enjoys being back on the Texas A&M campus, with plans to reach many future, current, and former students through the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship.
Lane King, Program Coordinator II
Lane King is a Program Coordinator II for the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship. He joined the team in May of 2018 and will be working to recruit prospective students to our programs as well as actively keep students engaged and excited about the wide array of opportunities McFerrin provides.
Lane received his Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Nevada, Reno in May 2014 before completing a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership at the University of Nevada, Reno in May of 2016. Lane was involved in a plethora of different clubs and organizations as an undergraduate and worked in residence life as a Graduate Resident Director during his graduate program. He moved to Bryan/College Station in July of 2016 where he worked at Blinn College, Bryan Campus as the Coordinator of Student Activities.
Shelly Brenckman, Marketing Coordinator (Startup Aggieland)
Shelly Brenckman is the Marketing Coordinator for Startup Aggieland. Brenckman also serves as webmaster, social media manager and mentor for Startup Aggieland. Before joining the team at Startup Aggieland, she was the vice president of Communications for Texas A&M-funded Aggie Angel Network, Inc.
Brenckman is the recipient of 10 ADDY and IABC Awards for Graphic Design; and a Lifetime Service Award from U.S. President George H.W. Bush and the Points of Light Institute. She was a presenter at the 2013 World Future Society International Conference in Chicago and at the 2014 Ventures Start Workshop, hosted by Research Valley Partnership.
Brenckman is very involved in the Aggie Network and local community. In 2010, she established a Boy Scouts of America Scholarship at Texas A&M and continues to support current students by actively participating in organizations such as Texas A&M Century Club, A&M Mother’s Club, 12th Man Foundation, Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and Fighting Texas Aggie Band and KAMU-TV.
Kennedy Porter, Student Coordinator- Events
Kennedy Porter is a Junior seeking a Bachelor of Business Administration in Management, with a focus on Entrepreneurial Leadership. She was a member of the Startup Aggieland Living Learning Community her Freshman year and has been involved in entrepreneurship programs at Texas A&M ever since. Kennedy currently serves as a coordinator for 3 Day Startup at Texas A&M, a semi-annual program that helps student entrepreneurs launch their business over the course of 72 hours. Kennedy joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship staff in January 2016 to help coordinate and execute events.
Kennedy is also finishing up her two year term as Public Relations Officer for the Aggie Yacht Club.
Dani Beck, Student Assistant- Events
Dani Beck is a Junior from Richmond, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Sociology with minors in Business and Cybersecurity. Before joining the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship team in November 2017, she worked in the College of Architecture Dean’s Office and interned with the College Station Police Department.
Dani is also a member of the Hullabaloo Band, 12th Man Student Foundation, and Aggie Blossoms.
Sarah Gerlich, Student Assistant- Events
Sarah Gerlich is a Junior seeking an undergraduate degree in Finance, with plans to pursue a Master’s Degree in Marketing. She was a tutor for the Athletic Department and joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in July 2017.
Sarah also serves on the Collegiate Panhellenic Council and is interning this summer with Studio 13 in London, England. She is trained in fashion design and used to feature her designs in Houston Area Charity Fashion Shows.
Madison Jones, Student Assistant- Events
Madison Jones is a Junior from Sweetwater, TX, and is pursuing a degree in Communication with a minor in Human Resources Development. She was a student employee at the 12th Man Foundation during the 2016-2017 school year, and joined the McFerrin Center for Entrepreneurship in November 2017.
Madison studied abroad during the summer of 2017 as a part of the Spain Language and Culture program through Hispanic Studies. She serves as Recruitment Class Advisor in Aggie Sweethearts, as well as on the recruitment committee.